WASHINGTON, June 22, 2010 – Beyond the National Broadband Plan lies the problem of hardware; the challenge is that even if broadband is spread to remote parts of the country, there will not be enough computers to take advantage of the benefits.
The question of “Where will the computers come from” when broadband is spread all over America was posed to a panel of experts at the Broadband for America conference.
The panel, described as a “dream team” by Net Literacy founder Daniel Kent, included Dave McClure, president of USIIA, Don Kent, chair of Net Literacy and Kerry Murray, Dell’s senior counsel for global public policy.
How do people who do not own a computer get one in a way that will not drain the already overspent government coffers?
McClure espoused public-private partnerships to overcome this challenge, namely, to use computers from government agencies and large companies that would normally be thrown away, and refurbish them. He said that cheap computers are not the answer because they lack the processing power, ram, and operating systems necessary for proper usage.
“We need a systematic approach to equipment recycling, not disposal,” said McClure, “The machines sitting in front of you today should never go to a landfill.”
The refurbishing of computers and public-private partnerships McClure suggests is manifested in Net Literacy. Kent said his organization repurposes hardware from old computers for $15 to $20. This is something that Net Literacy has been doing with the state government of Indiana, and repurposes about 4,000 to 5,000 computers every year.
Kent said that Executive Order 12999, which calls for the recycling of federal computers, should be strengthened, and is something Net Literacy is working on.
Murray brought an example of Dell’s foray into education, showing the company’s first product specifically designed for use in classrooms, the Lattitude 2100. The laptop is slightly ruggedized to increase durability, it has a strap like handle which can also be used as a laptop lock, and has a network usage indicator on the front of the laptop so the instructor can see if users are on the internet. Additionally it’s a light unit weighing in at only 3lb.
Dell is one of Net Literacy’s partners in Indiana, and that in 2009 the company’s Digital Adoption Coalition – which tries to use white spaces in television spectrum to broadcast broadband – partnered with Microsoft and Spectrum Bridge to implement broadband in Claudville, Va.
“Bear in mind that for all of the progress we have made, we need to make more yet,” finished McClure.